The global Android smartphone AP (Application Processor)/SoC (System on Chip) sales grew 3.6% YoY in 2021, according to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Global Handset Model Sales Tracker. MediaTek led the Android smartphone SoC market in 2021 with a 46% share, followed by Qualcomm with 35%. Most of the market share growth for MediaTek in 2021 came from the low-mid tier wholesale price segment (sub-$299), driven by strong demand for the Dimensity 700/800 series chipsets.
Qualcomm struggled with a tight supply throughout the year for its mid-tier solutions. The shift in focus away from 4G SoCs also didn’t help. However, in the high value $300+ segment, Qualcomm continued to dominate with its Snapdragon 7 and 8 series. The number of design wins for Qualcomm in the $399+ Android smartphones continued to climb not only for chipsets (AP/SoC) but also for RFFE (RF Front End) components, allowing it to capture a higher BoM (Bill of Materials) share and boost both its top and bottom lines.
AP Chipset Share for Android Smartphones by Price Band (%) in 2021
- With a supply crunch since the previous year, Qualcomm prioritized focus on ramping up supply for its 7 and 8 series Snapdragon chipsets, driving higher revenue and profitability.
- Qualcomm is also in a very unique position to further make inroads into the premium Android smartphone market by supplying a leading-edge RFFE portfolio and other components such as ultrasonic fingerprint sensor and quick charge.
- Qualcomm continued its domination of the mid-high ($300-$499) smartphone segment in 2021 with a 65% share, up from 53% in 2020. The Snapdragon 870, 720G, 750G and 778G were the key volume-driver chipsets for Qualcomm in this segment.
- Qualcomm’s share in smartphones priced above $500 increased from 41% in 2020 to 55% in 2021 owing to the launch of flagships Snapdragon 888 and 8Gen 1.
- The Snapdragon 8 series sets an industry benchmark when it comes to delivering premium flagship-grade smartphone experiences. It is the default choice for any smartphone OEM’s flagship series.
- Qualcomm is generations ahead of its competition when it comes to premium experiences in a chipset, whether it is compute (CPU, DSP, GPU), AI (NPU), connectivity (4G, 5G sub-6GHz, 5G mmWave, Wi-Fi6/6E), security, or gaming capabilities. Besides, the highly optimized RFFE components are key to delivering advanced connectivity experiences, making it a system-level opportunity for Qualcomm.
- Moving forward, dual sourcing of premium solutions from foundry will be the key to alleviating +any concerns over chipset shortages.
- MediaTek’s growth came from smartphones priced less than $299 (wholesale price). MediaTek’s growth was driven by both LTE and 5G SoCs across this price band.
- The volume in the ≤$99 price band was driven by LTE smartphones, where MediaTek captured a 62% share. LTE SoCs were most affected by the shortages in 2021, both for MediaTek and Qualcomm.
- In Android smartphones in the $100-$299 price band, MediaTek dominated the market with a 52% share. This is where the Dimensity 700 and 800 drove the mass-market adoption of 5G smartphones in markets such as China, India and parts of the US and Europe. This allowed brands such as realme, Xiaomi, OPPO and vivo to launch 5G phones at price points below the $200 retail price.
- The Dimensity 1100/1200 helped MediaTek increase share in the $300-$499 price band, where it captured a 24% volume share in 2021, compared to 6% in 2020.
- Further, with the launch of the Dimensity 8100/8000, it is looking to strengthen its position in the $300-$499 price band. These chipsets support the R16 baseband with power efficiency and performance improvements. With the Dimensity 9000, MediaTek is looking to enter the premium segment ($500+) in 2022. Almost all Chinese smartphone OEMs, like OPPO, vivo, Xiaomi and HONOR, will launch phones with this chipset. According to our chipset tracker forecast, MediaTek is likely to capture around 10% of the premium smartphone segment.
- Samsung SOCs witnessed a decline in all smartphone price segments in 2021 compared to the previous year.
- Drastic changes were seen in the low-mid segment ($100-$299), where its share decreased from 17% to 7%, and in the mid-high segment, where its share decreased from 13% in 2020 to 6% in 2021, as Samsung Mobile outsourced many of its models (A, F and M series) to ODMs which integrated mostly Qualcomm, MediaTek or Unisoc solutions in different models depending on target price bands. The lack of refreshes in the Exynos series SoCs for the mid-to-high tiers was a trigger for the ODM move. The absence of the Note series and Qualcomm’s design wins across the popular Samsung foldables led to further decline of the Exynos chipsets.
- With the Galaxy S22 series, Qualcomm has a greater proportion of design wins across markets than before, thanks to its industry-leading offerings and also the low yields of the new premium Exynos chipsets.
- UNISOC showed exciting growth in 2021 in smartphones priced less than $200. In 2020, UNISOC chipsets only catered to phones priced under $100. In 2021, realme, HONOR, Motorola and Samsung launched phones with the Tiger series SoC. UNISOC has expanded its customer base with design wins at ZTE and TECNO, and entry into the Samsung Galaxy A series.
- UNISOC captured a 26% share in the ≤$99 band in 2021, followed by a 4% share in the $100-$199 price band.
- For 2022, we expect UNISOC to maintain the momentum with its portfolio catering to LTE smartphones as MediaTek struggles with supply issues for 4G chipsets and Qualcomm focuses just on 5G solutions. Also, a few design wins with 5G chipsets will add to the overall volumes.
- HiSilicon’s SoCs had a 16% share in phones costing $500 and above in 2021, which was a decline from the 30% share in the previous year, due to the US trade ban. It is running on the inventory it added before the ban.
- For 2022, we expect its volumes to drop as the inventory gets depleted. Huawei has already started using Qualcomm SoCs in its new launches, but they are limited to 4G.